I saw Rep. Frank by the Capitol today

Michael Kinsley’s opening paragraphs from today’s column made me laugh:

It was, I believe, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who first made the excellent, bitter and terribly unfair joke about conservatives who believe in a right to life that begins at conception and ends at birth.

This joke has been adapted for use against various Republican politicians ever since. In the case of President Bush, though, it appears to be literally true.

After laughing, I read the article to understand Mr. Kinsley’s point.

But it is hard — indeed, I would say it is impossible — to reconcile Bush’s absolutism over allegedly human life when it is a clump of unknowing, unfeeling cells with his sophisticated, if not cavalier, attitude toward the loss of innocent human life when it is children and adults in Iraq.

While I agree with the basic idea, I think he could’ve used a better example for comparison: President Bush’s unabashed desire for America to torture anyone he deems our enemy. The underlying “principle” of the President’s stance is that torturing a few individuals has the potential to save the lives of many Americans. If that is acceptable for torture, why is it not acceptable for stem cell research?

By experimenting with a few stem cells, scientists have the potential to save the lives of many Americans. The only difference I can decipher when the debate is framed that way is that geography matters. Put 1,000 Americans together in the ticking time bomb scenario, and torture might (not really) save them. But if 1,000 Americans die in a day from a disease that stem cell research might help cure, that research remains morally unacceptable. Physical harm to an actual human being by torture is less grave than physical harm to cells that will never be an actual human being.

This isn’t how I’d specifically frame the discussion because the underlying principles possess more complexity. Also, the various scenarios aren’t as clean. However, I believe I’ve captured the gist of our president’s positions. He is wrong on both.